Written by Kep
Auriferous Flame – The Great Mist Within
> Black metal
> Releasing August 26
> True Cult Records
There are certain artists that have proven themselves worthy of the implicit and unquestioning trust of their fans. No bad projects, no dud tracks, no internet temper tantrums, no bullshit; just good music at every turn. Ayloss, the man behind Spectral Lore, Mystras, Divine Element, and newer outfits like Clarent Blade and Fortress of the Pearl, is one of those artists.
That’s why I knew that The Great Mist Within, the debut full-length from his new black metal project Auriferous Flame, was going to be good. The man has an ear for soundscapes that’s all but unmatched, building layer upon layer of tone and riff and melody and rhythm and atmosphere to paint detailed scenes, the kind that are gorgeous at first glance but that reveal a composition full of richly woven details upon closer study. This record greatly rewards multiple listens, to peel back the strata and appreciate the elements and how they fit so seamlessly into the whole.
Have you ever seen The Monk by the Sea, the famous painting by Caspar David Friedrich? Here it is if you haven’t:
Sure, you can look at it for a few seconds and get the basic idea of the thing. But then you notice the subtle shading and shaping of the details in the sky. And the little bits of greenish-yellow that create layers in the clouds. And the care with which the painter made the brightness of the upper half fade deeply into the darker shades of the ocean. And the way that you can tell exactly which way the monk is facing, and how you can see each of the gulls in flight near him. And the astonishing amount of topographical variety in the ground on the shore. The longer you look, the clearer it is that you’re viewing the work of a master.
That’s the way this album feels to me. Yes, it’s a second wave-inspired album of lengthy and highly atmospheric tracks, but there’s so much more going on. Turn on opener “Voice of the Gleaming Edge”: the ostinato blasts with their continuous blur of cymbal hits and the tastefully raw distortion on the guitars creates a smooth, hazy wash, and it’s already a strikingly gorgeous musical canvas at first observation. And then you notice the subtle growth in the repeated rhythms and melodies, and the way that the guitars feel almost medieval at times, and how they sometimes shift into dual harmonies as the song progresses, the almost imperceptible entrance of the synths that uplifts the entire song, and the care with which Ayloss’s vocals are understatedly placed into the landscape of the music as another instrument and not a feature. There’s less “movement”, per se, than your ear might expect—the riffs and motifs are plenty active but their repetitious nature means that they don’t really travel far—but the clever minor variations that occur as the sections develop keep the ears engaged throughout.
There’s plenty of variety from song to song, as well. While “Voice” is all exhilarating speed and breathless riffing, like standing with arms stretched wide at the edge of a precipice as a constant chill roar of wind pulls the air from your chest, following track “Molten Gold” takes a more thoughtful and stately tack, layering soaring solos, meandering melodies, and a lilting folksy clean vocal chorus over top of a repetitive dissonant base. The title track then returns to a galloping pace with a triumphant medieval melodic thrust; there’s an especially awesome moment near the 2:30 mark where the guitar duets itself in exultant fashion over a churning chaos of blasting noise. Final main body track “Ancient Corridors”, the most narrative of the songs, begins as ominous blackened doom with deliberate buzzing guitars overarched by hauntingly drawn-out screams. It breathes as it progresses through its near-11-minute runtime, expanding and shrinking and inhaling and exhaling over again, passing through extended moments of pensive melancholy, swelling to a mountain-sized crescendo, and calmly drawing to an atmospheric close.
“Auriferous” means “yielding or containing gold”, by the way, and that gleaming sort of warm shine is ever-present in the album’s atmosphere. Everything seems to shimmer, like the gilded surface of a mountain lake at dawn, musical lines rising and falling like ripples within the shine. But there’s plenty of ferocity, and plenty of aggression, too; Ayloss’s guitar lines have a particular wildness to them, riding the front of the beat and pushing the music forward with hair-to-the-wind hostility. The vicious insectoid buzz is a nice counterbalance to the incessant blasting in the drums, with inhuman screams above actually smoothing things. In true second wave-inspired form, there’s little in the way of audible bass, but my ears don’t miss it at all.
I’d be remiss to not quickly mention the way that the sound of Auriferous Flame relates to Spectral Lore, Ayloss’s longest-running and most accomplished solo project. The sound here is more stripped back, not an empty sound but a spacious one, and one that feels appropriately old school. The songwriting is equally well-focused, but without Spectral Lore’s focus on ambient and atmospheric passages and an emphasis on sustained aggression in its place the listen feels much tighter; it’s also a notably quick listen, at 39 minutes. This is a nice new tack that feels authentically like Ayloss without duplicating or skewing too similar to his existing projects (including Mystras, which is filled with interludes and is more transparently medieval).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Behold another exquisitely detailed masterpiece from a master artist: The Great Mist Within continues the perennial parade of quality releases from the various projects of Ayloss. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands then you’ll also love Auriferous Flame, and if you’ve yet to check out his music then these five tracks are a great place to start.